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It’s been a hard week, and it’s only Tuesday! My friend Heather called late last night and I shared a bit of my funk with her, but I still went to bed unable to escape the feeling of being crushed. People have failed me this week. I’ve failed myself. I’ve failed others, and it sucks. Like lava flowing through my veins, my anger has been an internal companion lately. I find myself getting irritated by things that wouldn’t bother me if I was feeling like myself, which I’m not.

Is this an identity crisis? Do I need to just pull up my big girl pants and get over myself?

I’m reading Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection. I think she’d tell me I’m not being kind to myself. I wonder if I’m experiencing my mid-life unraveling? She describes it as a time when you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want to live, not the one you’re “supposed” to live. I’m doing heart and soul work and like Brene describing her own journey, it’s a bit like slogging through mud on my journey to living wholehearted.

I’ve been focusing on all the times I HAVEN’T kept my word, said or done the kind thing, loved someone well, served with compassion, finished what I started, and lived like I wanted to. I’m caught in the sinkhole of wanting what I won’t ever have and feeling sorry for myself. But it’s not just a pity party; it’s a deep grieving for an impossible relationship. Most of the time it’s emotionally manageable, but in my current state, it cements me in the bottom of the sinkhole. I need a rope.

I woke up this morning to a text from my friend Cherie. As we messaged back and forth, she made me laugh and I felt a little sun. I shared a bit more of my funk with her, and she spoke my name back to me, reminding me who I am. I lay in bed for a while, crying to God about my life and the uncertainty I’m feeling. Pete must have crawled in our bed after Benny left for school this morning because he was curled up asleep on Benny’s side. As I was wiping my eyes, his little voice said, “What’s wrong mommy?”

“I’m just sad right now and I’m talking to God about it.”

A minute later, my phone beeped. It was a Facebook message from an old high school friend. Stephen shared a video of his lesson from last Sunday, telling me that somewhere in the middle of his talk about Grace, he told the story of a time in high school when I called him out. It’s a story he has shared several times because for him it was a rooster’s crow…a call for a new beginning. A call to remember the grace we live in. He thanked me again for allowing God to use me to get through to him. I cried some more. The year I met and knew Stephen, my senior year, is one I’ve always referred to as my year from hell. But God used me in that hell and He gave me a few good friends. Stephen reminded me of that today of all days.

I guess that’s three rooster crows. Heather. Cherie. Stephen.

I’m still in my pajamas, and I may stay that way today. That’s okay. In my core, I know who I am. On the outside, sometimes I forget. My face is dry now, but my heart still hurts and I’m crying out to God. He’s the only one who hears the things I don’t feel safe enough to share with other people. He doesn’t hand me my big girl pants and tell me to snap out of it. He’s the one who sends three friends to speak life to me and remind me who I am, and then He holds me while I cry.

Watch the whole thing, but minutes 16-20 are about the rooster crowing. Good stuff! Here’s the link:

Undeniable Grace

P.S. My memory surrounding the letter I gave to Stephen is a bit hazy. I’m a wordy girl, so I’m sure the song lyrics weren’t the only thing I wrote, but I can’t remember what else I said. I only remember how nervous I was giving it to him, prepared for the possibility of it being the end of any friendship we did have. Lucky for both of us, we weren’t close enough friends for me to make him a whole guilt-inducing mix tape. Imagine slogging through that! ;)

And Stephen, if you read this, I’m humbled I’m part of your story. My heart is the same, but my methods have changed, and like you, I’m all about God’s grace! Thank you for messaging me today. Your timing was perfect.

I shared some thoughts a few months ago on Peter and the rooster crowing:  Jesus, Peter, Me, and the Number Three.

Catching you up on the photo challenge pics:

10-ArchitectureDay 9 “Architecture” – The Denver Central Public Library is a 540,000 square foot monstrosity of “public happiness.” Designed by world-renowned architect Michael Graves, the library opened its doors in 1995. The building is a work of art, but nothing compared to the beauty it houses. I took this photo on the top floor.

10-sign

Day 10 “Sign” – They missed one. ;)

11-StrangerDay 11 “Stranger” – Taking pictures of strangers isn’t that strange for me. I was coming out of the movie theater and saw this girl standing against the wall reading my friend Kim’s book. I was so excited, I asked if I could take a picture to send to Kim. She was gracious enough to let me. Strangers don’t scare me, but I might scare them.

12-View from your windowDay 12 “View from your window” – Greetings from inside the car wash.

13-reflectionDay 13 “Reflection” – See me twice? Try to look me in the eye.

14-treeDay 14 “Tree”

unnamedDay 15 “Vehicle” – Frontier Airlines flight into Kansas City, MO. My favorite transportation this week.

16-AnimalDay 16 “Animal” – This is a rescued sea turtle living at the Kansas City Sea Life Aquarium. You can’t see it in this photo, but he’s missing his front right flipper.

17-Itty BittyDay 17 “Itty Bitty” – How does anyone write in something so small? The second one is more my style.

18-musicDay 18 “Music” – Music moves me. I play several instruments poorly, but I play this one the best. She was a gift from my love. She spends way too much time in my closet these days.

 

The 47 Day Photo Challenge

My friend Don and I recently started another challenge. You can read all about it (and check out the great photos) on the blog I created for it: http://47dayphotochallenge.wordpress.com

It’s fun and creative, but I was most excited about practicing consistency, my lifelong pebble in my shoe. That’s why we call it a challenge. We have 30+ friends who’ve joined us so far. The majority of us are amateurs (me) using our smartphones and apps to capture our vision of the day’s subject. A few of us are using pretty sweet cameras and know a thing or two about lighting and composition. All of us are in it to have fun. At the end of each week, I’ll post my pics here too. You can click on each photo to enlarge it.

1-Love-Niki1-Love

2-Beverage-Niki2-Beverage

3-Something Blue-Niki3-Something Blue

4-Looking Up-Niki4-Looking Up

5-Workspace-Niki5-Workspace

6-Heart-Niki6-Heart

7-Laugh- Niki7-Makes you laugh

8-Texture-Niki8-Texture

Storyline-Conference-Single-Header

I am in Nashville, Tennessee for Donald Miller’s Storyline Conference this weekend. Let me tell you how it all came together.

My Texas friends Chris and Allen, and my Colorado friends Luke and Jason, all attended Storyline and came away changed men. They don’t know each other but they’re all men I hold in high esteem, and they know me well enough to know that I needed to attend Storyline, and they told me so. Though I was hopeful, I knew it would take tremendous finagling and a small miracle to make that happen. And it did.

Luke emailed me a few months ago to let me know for the conference in Nashville would have a “pay what you can afford” option, and encouraged me to register. He and his wife wanted to help make this happen for me.

When we got our tax refund, I got online and registered, paying money that wasn’t “extra” but trusting that God and my extended friends and family would help make this a reality.

Chris has wonderful parents who have a time-share in Nashville, so he arranged for me to stay at a beautiful resort this weekend as their guests.

My friend Cherie gave me vouchers for two free car rental days with Hertz.

Luke rallied some other friends and they chipped in to pay for my airfare. (I want to honor them but don’t know if I have permission to publicize who they are.)

I had to come up with money for registration, the other 2 days of car rental, gas, food, and the deposits required. I’m a part of an AMAZING group of people! They’re generous, encouraging, and challenge me to leap beyond what I think is doable. I’m not a very good dreamer and tend to settle for less, so I am incredibly grateful for my people who push me to dream and pursue. I’m here in Nashville…pursuing.

Several years ago I attended a National Youth Workers Convention where the late, great Mike Yaconelli told us we tend to wear ourselves out at these things. We succumb to the pressure of attending every workshop and activity offered, sucking the marrow out of the experience so it was worth our money. He gave us permission to grab a bottle of wine and hole up in our rooms if that is what our spirits need. My spirit need both focus and rest this weekend.

I fell asleep watching a terrible movie last night, and woke up to a text from Benny. The hours in between were spent wrapped in blankets with the ceiling fan on and lots of pillows cradling my body. No dog scratching at the door, no children waking me up in the middle of the night, no saggy mattress that hurts my back, and no list of things I must accomplish today to keep life moving along. Just a dark, quiet, peaceful, beautiful room holding promises of the kind of rest that comes with stepping away from my daily routine for a bit. I chose to skip the pre-conference blogger’s breakfast this morning and wake up leisurely. No guilt. No regrets.

I’m heading out to the university for pre-registration and to find some lunch, but felt the need to blog first. I’m redefining and refreshing some things this weekend. I started this blog in 2004 and it’s morphed into several things over the years, just like me. It’s changed with my needs, wants, and pressures to be something other than what it is, and yet it’s still me and my journey.

The Open Window 2

My blog is an online window into my life. Not everyone wants that view, and sometimes I close the curtains for a bit, but I’m still here and I’m welcoming you to join me on my journey.

You are so much more than…

Most of my blog posts could start with, “I have this friend…”

I have this friend who buys me Chai…a lot, and another friend who tells me I’m amazing on the days I feel like a big fat failure, and yet another one who tells me when I’m full of crap. These ladies have shaped me, but many times my growth has come through loss instead of love. Or maybe it was love in the midst of loss. Tonight I’m thinking about a friend who said goodbye, and the incredible impact he made on me.

This friend and I spent quite a bit of time together during a pivotal season of my life. His parting words to me were beautifully sweet and I should have known they were a goodbye. I can be naive like that, thinking friendships last forever. Some don’t. There was pain for me in the parting, but he left me with an amazing gift – words to dive into and explore. Words that moved me into a place of introspection and quality time with God. I’m sure he has no idea the impact his letter made on me. Here’s a brief glimpse of what he said:

“Do not let yourself be bound by the labels that others write out for you or that you unjustly write out for yourself.  Only judge yourself by who you come to know you are through your relationship with Christ and time spent getting to know yourself…You are so much more than… (He inserted a list of activities and titles I mistakenly thought defined me.) Understand the places where flowers grow after you have been there. Understand that part of you that possesses greatness while still being totally separate from what other people think or know of you. Understand why and how God loves you in particular.”

I have that paragraph memorized. Why? Because that friend was one of many God has used to speak this message to me. That bold part? I’ve created several pieces of art with that as the centerpiece. That phrase was pre-tattoo sleeve, and probably influenced my idea for the design.

I’ve been pondering identity this week and I’m stuck on the phrase, “So much more.” My friend Nick used that phrase on Sunday and I cried. It’s definitely one of my heart messages, and I need to share it with you. Ready?

YOU are so much more than the labels you and others write out for you. YOU are so much more than __________ (fill in the blank for me) and YOU need to understand the places where flowers grow after YOU have been there and why and how God loves YOU in particular…because He does. He loves YOU like crazy. No matter who you are, what you’ve done, or whether or not you believe in Him.

My friend’s words have become a mantra for my life – to leave people better than I found them. I want flowers to grow in their lives after I’ve been there. I am finally walking daily in the knowing that I am so much more than, and so are you.

I know. Spell check didn’t like that word either.

As I reflect on my sabbath year so far, I have some confessions to make, besides the one that I chose to title this post. It’s been a weird year. Not terrible. Not great. Confession #2: This whole resting thing seems like laziness and I feel like I have to justify it to others. Not that anyone is demanding I do, it’s the subtle reactions I get when I talk about what I’m NOT doing now.

531401_411058502259105_2115930535_n

A few of my friends have made comments about gearing up for my busy summer. That’s the pattern I’ve lived for the past several years – summers filled with ministry stuff and little time for anything else. As much as I love our SABBATH groups, I heaved a sigh of relief when Benny and I decided to take the summer off to rest and play as a family. Now, what does that look like? I have no idea. We’ve never done that before. Ever.  I think the last time I took the summer off to rest and play, I was in high school. You know, before I had to get a real job and be a responsible grown-up.

My attempts to talk with God about all of the stuff I need to work on: Character flaws, my lack of ability to finish what I start (like drawing challenges – ha!), caring too much what other people think, and my homeschooling quandary, are met with Him telling me to rest, and that I worry too much. Yeah, I LOVE hearing that. ;)

Slowing down has had some unfortunate consequences. Confession #3: Lately I’ve been feeling disconnected, lonely, forgotten, like I’m starving for attention. I am a pursuer, and I think my friends depend on me pursuing them.  When I don’t, I’m shocked (and a little hurt) at the lack of people pursuing me. Is it a reflection of my personality? Do I appear too busy? How do I change that? Do I need better friends or better communication skills? Probably the latter. My friends rock.400930_10151235683754257_888308935_nBenny and I had a long chat about this. Using the same tone of voice as he would say “of course you’re a redhead” he told me that of course I’m a pursuer. It’s my personality. It’s what I do. Mr. Smartypants also told me that my friends probably do assume I’m busy all of the time because I am. Except now I’m not, and they’re all confused. He asked who my close friends are now and told me to focus on them and not worry about whether or not I’m being pursued. He also told me to back off the toxic relationships in my life. Good idea. This advice was free and I didn’t even have to lie down on the couch and discuss how I feel about my mother.

Confession #4: I don’t know what I’m doing, but I know what I want.

The next 77 days (not including my two weeks of camp in Oklahoma) are stretched out before me. I want to read, have long chats on the phone, over Skype, or sit across from you – my friends –with a cup of Chai in my hand, watch movies, teach my daughter how to throw a fast-pitch softball, read, write a real letter, work on the novel I tell people I’m writing, beat my son at cribbage, take the other son down in a water balloon fight, sleep until noon, update my coupon binder, go on dates with my husband, and read some more. And I want to do these things spontaneously.

 I don’t want every day on the calendar filled in,

but I want every day to be full.

That’s my plan. I’m not a good rester, but I will be.

How about you? What are you looking forward to this summer?

Day 14 – Worst Punishment

Ignore me. That is worse than screaming at me or hitting me. Seriously. She’s not armless, by the way. Her arms are crossed in front of her, you just can’t see them.

30 Day Challenge 001

Day 15 – Favorite Fish

Finding Nemo was such a great movie! So many quotable lines, especially by my favorite character, Dory. How could I not love a fish that can read?

“Hey there, Mr Grumpy Gills. When life gets you down, do you wanna know what you’ve gotta do? Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming…”

30 Day Challenge 002

Day 16 – A Major Accident/Pain in your life

Um…yeah…I wasn’t up to doing this one this week.

Day 17 – First Crush

30 Day Challenge 003I never went through the “boys are gross” stage, and I’ve had about a hundred crushes, but my first was Michael Hurda. He was the boy next door. Okay, more like a block away. I could see his house from our porch. He had dark brown hair and a big cheesy grin. We walked to our elementary school together all through first and second grade, and logged hundreds of miles circling the neighborhood on our bikes. He never treated me like a girl when we were kicking a ball around or playing tag, so of course I loved him. On a field trip to our teacher’s farm in first grade, he told my mom he loved me and was going to marry me someday. Then we moved away the next year and I didn’t see him again until a chance meeting in high school. He had moved to another city but was visiting our hometown and we ran into each other. We reconnected for a bit as friends, but lost touch again. Not to sound all stalkerish, but I know where he is. I found him on Facebook, but didn’t friend request him. I also found the biggest crush of my childhood, and we ARE friends on Facebook, but that’s not today’s challenge. :)

Day 18 – Outer Space

30 Day Challenge 004“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

I can not hear the word “space” without the rest of the phrase running through my mind or slipping out of my mouth. Yes, I am a geek, and proud of it. In college, my best friend Kevin and I met weekly with several of our other geeky friends to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation in the parlor of McCloud Hall. I experience a brief wave of nostalgia, smell popcorn, and think of Kevin every time I watch an episode on Netflix. Yes, all seven seasons are available on instant watch. You’re welcome!

Day 19 – Favorite Holiday

July 29th. The best day of the year, and my very favorite holiday. My birthday. :P

30 Day Challenge 005Check out the daily drawings of my friends taking the challenge:

Don Hillson
Zoe Nowell
Bill Davis
GirlyGeeky
Free2B2Much
Notes From The Backseat
Niki Turner

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